April is Autism Awareness month and at Leaps & Bounds we’re Lighting It Up Blue for Autism!
We’d like to take this opportunity to shine a light on one of our amazing kiddos, Josh Fischer and his family.
February 4, 2013 started off like any typical day for Julie Fischer and her family. She probably showered, enjoying a few minutes of sacred alone time, before getting her kids breakfast and ready for the day. But then, the day went from being an ordinary day to one that will always stand out for Julie and her family. This was the day when her son, Josh, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Josh was four at the time. Julie now refers to that day as one where “our lives were forever changed.”
After Josh’s diagnosis, his parents were reeling with questions. Would Josh ever have friends, a wife, or children of his own? Would he ever be able to read and write, go to college, or be able to financially support himself? These future prospects are things many parents take for granted, but for Josh and his family they were all terrifyingly real questions that had to be asked. But Josh and his family weren’t alone. A recent parent survey by the Centers for Disease Control indicates that as many as 1 in 50 school-age children have an autism spectrum disorder. That number means that 2% of American children are on the autism spectrum, and these numbers are only expected to rise as diagnosis improves and less kids fall through the cracks. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States without a cure, and on average, associated costs for a family with autism average $60,000 per year. So the question becomes this: if there is no cure for autism spectrum disorders, then what can we do to help the more than 3 million Americans currently living with this disorder? What can we do to help families like Josh’s know that they are not alone, and that we are in this fight with them?
Light It Up Blue is a campaign spearheaded by Autism Speaks to bring awareness to autism by shining a bright blue light on the issue. April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day, which represents the kickoff of Autism Awareness Month. During this time, world landmarks, buildings, and iconic structures turn blue to show their support. 2016 will be the seventh year this event has occurred. In the past, the Empire State Building, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sydney Opera House, and 7000 other buildings and landmarks have participated in Light It Up Blue (click here to see pictures of some of these sites from past years). Here in St. Louis, we’ve seen the courthouse, the World’s Fair Pavilion, and the Gateway Arch all turn blue. But the event can also be supported by local businesses, homes, and individuals. When asked why people should participate in LIUB, Josh’s mother, Julie said, “Light It Up Blue is an important campaign to our family because it increases autism acceptance. We just want Josh to be understood and accepted by his classmates and the rest of society. I think we’ve come a long way in increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorder and other mental health issues. It amazes me when I see classmates of Josh going out of their way to make him feel included. Even our daughter, Hannah, who is only 19 months older than Josh has been very understanding of Josh and his special needs. She even wants to be a special education teacher when she grows up!”
It’s been three years now since Josh’s family received his ASD diagnosis. Julie says, “We don’t have all the answers…but we do know that Josh is one determined little boy.” Josh has had so many successes in the past three years. He is fully toilet trained, can write his first and last name, and can write all his letters and numbers. He can identify 50 sight words, graduated from kindergarten, learned how to swim, and successfully transitioned to a new school when their family moved to a new house this past summer. Not to mention the fact that Josh knows just about every line from Shrek the Musical. Josh has been receiving language therapy at Leaps and Bounds for the past two years, and has recently also begun occupational therapy to work on self-regulation skills. While Josh still has difficulty with communicating due to limited vocabulary, following multiple step directions, and staying focused without getting excited or anxious, he has made tremendous progress. If you met Josh, I can guarantee you would think he was one of the sweetest children you’ve ever met in your life. I remember meeting Josh during one of my first days at Leaps and Bounds as an Occupational Therapist, and after he learned my name the very first thing he did was turn to me and say, “I love you.” That unfiltered love is just one reason Josh is an amazing kiddo.
So, whether you know someone with autism or if you just want to build awareness regarding this disorder, we challenge you to Light It Up Blue. Do it for kids who are fighting hard to communicate and to understand others. Do it for kids who play mostly by themselves at recess because they struggle with social interactions. Do it for those families like Josh’s who live with Autism Spectrum Disorder every day, and do it to celebrate their triumphs, their struggles, and their perseverance. Get out there and Light It Up Blue; it’s your time to shine.
Here’s how you can participate in Light It Up Blue:
•Light It Up Blue: In your community
*Change existing light bulbs from white to blue
*Use blue gel sheets to tint your windows
*Put up blue Christmas lights in your windows or around your home
*Cover existing lights with blue filters
*Challenge your street to become a “Blue-evard” by lighting every house up blue
*Project the Light It Up Blue logo on a wall or a building
*Put up a Light It Up Blue sign in your yard (available here)
*Use washable car window paint to show your support
*Put up blue balloons in your office or on your mailbox
•Light It Up Blue: On your body
*Dye a strip of your hair blue or use a blue clip-on hair extension
*Use a Light It Up Blue temporary tattoo (available here)
*Wear blue on April 2nd and throughout the month of April
*Wear items with the Autism Speaks logo (available here), such as wristbands, t-shirts, and light up shoelaces
•Light It Up Blue: By donating
•Light It Up Blue: By advocating
*Distribute information about autism and Light It Up Blue in your community
*Host a local Autism Speaks representative to come speak at your organization or town about the Light It Up Blue campaign. More info here
*Support organizations and businesses who offer support for Autism Awareness Month (click here for a list)
•Light It Up Blue: On social media
*Use the hashtag #LIUB to be a part of Autism Awareness Month on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
*Turn your website, Facebook or Twitter profile blue or use the LIUB logo (click here)
*Personalize your own LIUB Selfie Sign
*Sign up here to show your support as an individual, or register a building/organization that is participating